Disturbing Bacteria Findings in Raw Chicken

E coli and antibiotic resistant bugs found in chicken breasts

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Unless there is an outbreak of bacteria, the food you purchase should be safe — right? Perhaps not, according to the group behind a new study of raw chicken.

This study analyzed over 300 chicken samples from grocery stores around the country for a variety of bacteria.

Nearly all the samples were found to contain bacteria, and about half of the samples tested positive for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

"Cook meat and poultry thoroughly."

This new analysis was conducted by the group Consumer Reports, a non-profit organization that tests a variety of consumer products.

In July 2013, the group purchased 316 raw chicken breast products to test for bacteria, including chicken from major brands like Perdue, Pilgrim’s, Sanderson Farms and Tyson.

The samples included a variety of types of chicken breasts, including skinless, boneless chicken breasts, breast tenderloins and skin-on, bone-in breasts. Most of the samples (252) were conventionally produced, but the study also included 64 chickens from brands that report not using antibiotics in raising chickens — 24 of which were organic.

The chicken was purchased from major national stores and regional markets in 26 different states then tested for six different types of bacteria. Consumer Reports tested the chicken for Salmonella, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli (E.coli), Enterococcus and Klebsiella pneumoniae.

When samples tested positive for a bacteria, the researchers performed additional testing to identify the strain of bacteria and determine if the bacteria was antibiotic-resistant.

According to Consumer Reports, chicken from all four of the major brands listed above contained "worrisome" amounts of bacteria, and that almost none of the brands tested were completely bacteria-free — 97 percent of the samples contained some amount of bacteria.

"And we found no significant difference in the average number of types of bacteria between conventional samples and those labeled 'no antibiotics' or 'organic,'" Consumer Reports noted.

The most common type of bacteria found was Enterococcus, found in 79.8 percent of the samples. E. coli was the next most common, found in 65.2 percent of the samples. Campylobacter was found in 43 percent of the samples, Klebsiella pneumoniae in 13.6 percent, Salmonella in 10.8 percent and Staphylococcus aureus in 9.2 percent.

Nearly half of the chicken samples (49.7 percent) tested positive for at least one type of multidrug-resistant bacteria. A smaller amount, 11.5 percent, had two or more types of drug-resistant bacteria.

Though no brands stood out as containing far less bacteria, consumers can make smarter choices, the researchers said.

"Still, there are good reasons for selecting chickens raised without the use of antibiotics," Consumer Reports wrote. "Buying those products supports farmers who keep their chickens off unnecessary drugs, and that’s good for your health and preserves the effectiveness of antibiotics."

Review Date: 
December 20, 2013
Last Updated:
December 20, 2013